Saturday, June 11, 2016

Lessons About Life and Love

For those who don't know my history over the last 15 years or so, my love life has been a little, how shall we say, messy. This is not to say bad, but, all over the place. I've been married, divorced, engaged, unengaged, in several long relationships that, try as we might, and for all of the positive aspects, didn't work out. I've been in relationships in which we realized we made better friends, and are still friends. And one might think, "wow you've really f'd up, why would I want to take love advice from you!" And I'd say, "Well, you have a fair point." But in fact, I have learned a lot. Just because something doesn't work out in the end doesn't mean it's not good. It doesn't mean that you regret it (I regret none of my serious relationships) or that you know nothing about love. It means exactly what it means - it didn't work out in the end. It could be the wrong person or the wrong timing or a whole host of other reasons. If nothing else, there's one thing I absolutely do know about - what doesn't work. Because I've been thinking about love and relationships quite a bit lately (aren't I always, though), I thought I'd share.

  • Don't get into, stay in, or further a relationship for the wrong reason. Now, everyone's "wrong reason" might be different, but I promise, you'll know it. You'll feel it in your gut, as I did, walking down the aisle on my wedding day 12 years ago this July 10th. I loved him, but not as I should have. I thought he was good for me, and I for him. I followed my brain and not my heart or my gut. I focused what I thought made sense instead of what I felt. Even with the best of intentions, it's not fair to the other person to be with them for the wrong reason.  Generally, it doesn't lead to happiness. 
  • Don't be with someone because of who you think they could be. It's great to see your loved one's potential, but what if potential is all it is? What if they never reach it? Everyone deserves to be loved for who they are, right now, even if they never change. That has to be enough. Otherwise, you're loving the version of them that you've created in your head, who they may be one day, and not who they actually are. Eventually, you get frustrated because they're not becoming the person you've envisioned, even though they may have never committed to doing so in the first place, and I can say from experience, on both ends of this, that it doesn't go well. 
  • If you were to die tomorrow, would you be happy with how you spent your last hours/days/weeks? If your loved one were to die tomorrow, would you be happy with how you'd most recently treated them? I know this sounds dramatic, but I've lost friends (and a dog) in the last year. Friends that died all too young. Their loved ones never thought they'd lose them so soon, but they did, out of the blue. I realize we all have responsibilities to honor that make our day to day lives run. But keep in mind that your job or clients could fire you tomorrow. Your car could break down or get totaled. Your house won't implode if it's not cleaned this moment. Your chores and tasks won't multiply by the thousands like gremlins if you don't do them right now.  But if you focus on these too often, your loved one might feel unloved, overlooked, and insignificant, with good reason - in those moments, you're making them a lower priority than these things, even if you don't realize it or intend to. 
  • White lies and lies of omission are still lies. Sure, everyone forgets small details sometimes. But if you intentionally don't mention something, especially if you make a habit of this, you're intentionally not being completely honest. Which is to say, dishonest. It erodes trust. 
  • Fess up. Listen, there are a thousand cliches that can be used to justify actions. Don't use them. When you "don't have time" to spend with someone, tell them that you have to make something else a priority instead of them. See how this goes. See how it makes you feel. Because if it's legit, and you truly feel other things are a priority, then at least admit it to yourself and to them. If you really expect them to understand, you should feel totally comfortable saying this to them. Common excuses like "I don't have time." "I'm just so busy"are easy ways to excuse not making someone a priority at the moment. And I realize nobody can be your top priority every waking minute, but at least be honest with them and yourself. Don't hide behind common cliches. 
  • Keep your word. If you say you're going to do something, do it. If you make plans, keep them. Sure something comes up here and there that can make these things impossible. You plan to be somewhere and you get in massive traffic on your way and miss it. You fall ill. Or quite simply, you forget. There have been times when I said, "Oh I'm going to wash the sheets tonight" and get involved in something and completely blank on it. It happens.  But as I said above, if you've had to choose between something else and this word or these plans or whatever it is, fess up. It's not that "things come up" or "things change" or anything like that. If you need to work on a last minute project instead of do ... whatever... with your significant other, if you're just too exhausted to clean the house, if you just downright need time to yourself, whatever it is, tell them right out that in the moment, that is more important and must be a priority. Again, it's about taking responsibility on yourself, instead of putting it on the universe. It's a slippery slope to fall into - the universe can easily become a scapegoat. Don't let it be. This is something I've learned from my condition. My therapist tells me almost every session that I need to stop saying "I can't do this because of my condition (i.e. I can't see gray areas)". I need to say, 'I can, it's very difficult but I'm going to work on it, even if it feels impossible."  I need to take responsibility. And I feel everyone else, condition or no, does too. 
  • "Enjoy the little things in life. One day, you might look back and realize they were the big things." ~Attributed to entirely too many people.  I think this is self explanatory. 
  • Laugh, a lot. Especially at yourselves. A good sense of humor and love for each other might sometimes be the only things that get you through (exception: if the other person is really upset, don't start laughing. It won't go over well, I promise). 
  • Go on dates. Always. Even when you're 95, if you live that long and are still together.  Being comfortable in a relationships is fantastic. Being too comfortable in a relationship is trouble waiting to happen. It's really easy to fall into the "so, what movie are we watching tonight while we reheat dinner in our pajamas for the 20th weekend in a row" trap. Dates don't have to be expensive. You can throw on sweats instead of pjs and take that reheated dinner and a bottle of wine to the park and sit outside under the stars. You can go hiking together to your favorite spot if that's your thing. Jump in the car early one Saturday morning for an impromptu day trip together. Whatever it is, do things together that are special, that both of you think are special. And I know, as I said above, the little things should be special. But don't let yourself  fall into complacency. This goes with "fess up" and "how would you feel if you died tomorrow". It's easy to think the other person will always be there, that you always have time to do these things, etc. That's taking someone for granted. Don't. (Yes I know if you have kids it's tougher. But I also know plenty of couples with kids that make time for themselves as a couple. It may not be as frequent, but it's still important once in a while). 
  • If it's important to them, it's important to you (moral, ethical, legal dilemnas aside). My parents didn't love watching gymnastics meets every Sat when I was growing up. But they went, because they love me and I loved gymnastics. If it's something you can't do, at least show an interest. Ask them about it, even if it's something you think you may never fully understand, because it shows you care. Be legitimately interested when they tell you about it, because even if the topic isn't the most exciting to you, their enjoyment in it should be. 
  • This person is (or could be depending on the level of your relationship) your future. Always remember that. When life gets messy, when you have 100 things you feel like you're trying to organize and prioritize, when you aren't sure where to turn or what to do, remember that. They should be your north star. Always. 


  1. Thank you so much for all the things that you post. Your writings have helped me cope with living with cyclothymia and you are so incredibly relatable! So, thank you, thank you, thank you. <3

    1. Thank you! I'm sorry you have to deal with cyclothymia, but so glad my posts have helped. It's exactly why I write- it's not an easy. Onditikn to live with and knowing how others do has always helped me so I like to share my thoughts as well. Thank you for reading!